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Court finds reasonable suspicion for traffic stop and standing to challenge it

County of Fond Du Lac v. Nathan M. Kohlwey, 2013AP101-FT, District 2, May 1, 2013; (not recommended for publication); case activity.

This appeal may take the prize for the skimpiest briefs–the appellant’s is 6 pages and the respondent’s is 3.  This post is even shorter.

After receiving a 911 call about a driver who had fallen asleep in a truck at a stop sign, sheriff’s deputies stopped a different car, lacking license plates, late at night in the same area.  They asked the occupants for their driver licenses, noticed a strong order of alcohol, and started asking questions.  Turns out the passenger of this car had been the sleepyhead in the truck.  He failed field sobriety tests and was charged with operating a motor vehicle with a prohibited alcohol content in violation of § 346.63(1).  He moved to suppress the evidence gained from the stop but lost.  The court of appeals held that:

¶7 [P]assengers do have standing to challenge traffic stops as unreasonable seizures—driver and passenger alike are seized when a car is pulled over.  (Citing State v. Guzy, 139 Wis. 2d 663, 674-75, 407 N.W.2d 548 (1987).

¶¶11-12  [T]he deputies had specific articulable facts to support their reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed . . .The officers could reasonably suspect that a crime had been committed because they had received a late-night citizen’s report of a male possible drunk driver on a sparsely populated rural dead-end road, detected intoxicants emanating from the vehicle, learned that Kohlwey drove a vehicle that matched the description of the drunk-driver report, determined that Kohlwey was the driver of the reported vehicle, and observed visible signs of intoxication and detected the odor of intoxicants coming from Kohlwey.


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